“Dialogica” video installation at Museum of the Sky, Nagano


James Jack + Ruri Watanabe Dialogica 2017 (still frame from 30’49” digital video)

TENKU Art Festival
Museum of the Sky

Tomi City, Nagano, Japan

This collaborative artwork made in the mountains of Kyushu at a unique site where local legends say a Chinese monk who brought the first tea leaves to Japan has been sitting in meditation since the 7th century. Artists Watanabe and Jack walk down a ledge to the tip of the same protruding rock to share a “dialogue” together with the past. Starting in silence, this contemplative work grows in a meditative way along with the plethora of sounds present in the burgeoning summer forest. Near the end, one of the artists slowly returns across the ledge while the other continues to sit indefinitely on the stone of meditation.

“Practices of Alternative Spaces and Transitional Politics in Asia”

Yoshitaka Mōri
James Jack
Michelle Lim
Tay Tong
Woon Tien Wei

Chua Beng Huat

19 Oct 2018

18:45 – 21:00

Moving Image Gallery, Singapore Art Museum at 8Q
8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535

Organized by Minna Valjakka, Asia Research Institute, NUS

Details can be found here

More information

Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore




Artist Residency at Orford Musique Canada

While I was an artist in residence at the Orford Center in June-July 2018 I worked in response to the local site from an old cabin converted into a studio. It was small and had no conveniences such as internet, but the perfect size and atmosphere for painting.

I started with ink works made directly with water from the pond in front of the studio, continued with rainwater and completed two larger works with water from the nearby Lake Memphremagog. Memories of the lake stood out in the conversations I had with local residents, so I chose to paint the mountains and waterways often while in residence.

Each work was made from a combination of site visits and direct observation early on. Though the finished works were all made based on memories and seen with the inner eye. This gave the works a balance between forms that Quebec residents found familiar along with the workings of my inner heart.

The triptych painting titled “Orford in the Mind” seen while in progress on the studio wall alongside my brushes. This work was painted the morning after hiking the mountain together with close friend and gallerist Anick Valiquette who was my generous guide to the region.

Detail of the previous painting showing the nuances of walnut ink painted in the humid summer air of Orford.


Detail of the work “For the Next Generation” a four-panel painting that was created during the residency. This was a large undertaking that consumed the last half of my residency. The lake below was painted delicately with water from Memphremagog to include the spirit of the lake, while the mountains were painted boldly with handmade walnut ink in tune with the softness of the mountains.

A map of the depths of the lake in which I modified the title to include “memories” while executing a diptych painting completed on site. This work will be featured in the WORKS section along with installation views of the exhibit posted shortly. The resonance of Orford lives on in the mind of all those who experience these unique artworks and the air/water they breathe.


“Sea Birth” Screening in Okinawa

Sea Birth Screening

Artwork by James Jack

Part one of the work Sea Birth (2017) begins with the spirits of those who have died in the sea near the site of a shipwreck from the 19th century. Part two of Sea Birth (2018) delves into the militarized spaces of the sea in Okinawa today seen through the eyes of a young couple falling in love.


In preparation for the production of part three a discussion on the meaning of birth will occur after the screening.


Special Guests:

James Jack (Artist)

Chiaki Katagiri (Senior Research Fellow, Okinawa Archaeological Culture Center)


July 22nd


Daido 35-5 2F
Naha City, Okinawa


*Support provided by Yale-NUS College, Georgette Chen Fellowship Grant

“The Molokai Process” artist writing

After talking story with Uncle Mac Poepoe, artist James Jack touches the earth to make a drawing near the entrance to Molokai’s Mo‘omomi Preserve in 2017. Photo by Nadine Powell.


Molokai Window was born in 2007 while I was living on O‘ahu. During that time I visited Molokai and was impressed by the community’s strength in preserving the island’s heritage. Spiritual sites were honored, protected and alive. Despite reports in the media on O‘ahu which said otherwise, I saw their perspective was full of positivity and hope. Over time I realized there was a bright shining lesson at the core of the Molokai community which is very important for other communities to learn from. That is: how to protect, value and stay in communication with spirits, nature and one’s own history in the complicated present we now live in. This requires love, conscious effort against adversity, and aloha. This seed resonated with me for many years while I was making other creative works, many of which reconnect people with the earth.

More recently I had the opportunity to return to Molokai to listen to the spirits. I was overwhelmed by a feeling to touch the earth. I felt stories pouring out of the soft grains of dirt. I touched my finger on to a small sketchbook over and over, listening deeper for the stories that Molokai wanted to tell. There were some sites that said no, and I listened to that as well, out of respect for the dirt.  Soon after I showed this sketchbook to Healoha Johnston, interim director of curatorial affairs and curator of the arts of Hawai‘i at the Honolulu Museum of Art, and she, too, felt that we had something to learn from the lifeways of Molokai. How could we convey this message to others? This was the beginning of Molokai Window as an art project. At that moment one of the guiding principles we cherished was: This art work will only exist if the community wants to open the window together with us.

Stories have been central to this artwork and I would like to share one story I was recently told on Molokai while holding a workshop with high school students. It is a story about the sea/land border in Kamalō, which brings to life the area from which materials are being borrowed for Molokai Window. It is just one sampling from many other colorful stories that are a part of the island’s vibrant history.

A mind map a Molokai High School student made during an artist workshop organized by teacher Ric Ornellas in 2018.


Hunter DeMello told this story while he drew a mind map of a place where he often plays behind his “gram’s” house. Speaking out loud was an integral part of making this illustrative drawing for the rest of us observing. It starts with an island, which he draws quickly in the shape of a peninsula a short walk behind grandma’s house. He continues with the stones circling around Keawanui fish pond, a revived space where he often plays with family. I recall the mist in the early morning when I walked down to the fishpond last year with Uncle Walter. His love for the pond shines from his eyes and fills the sketchpad with light. The space is an active living environment where he recently saw a stingray playing in the ocean. The mangroves, plants and fish are an active part of the space. The student recalls each of these spaces in relation to a foot pathway across dirt while walking through the forest to and from the ocean. His story was being carefully constructed for all of us who were listening. His story brings the place to life, and is an important shade in the opening of the Molokai Window.

Molokai High School teachers at the Talk Story on Dirt Artist Workshop in Sust-‘āina-ble Molokaiʻs permaculture garden. Photo by Mihoko Jack


Lessons learned
Over the course of this project, I have visited the island numerous times, often with Healoha, and found a gentle embrace from the community. During a one-month residency last year I listened to the elders, youth and other residents in a patient and respectful manner. While working with them I learned important lessons that I would like to share with others:

  1. People on Molokai are proud of their dirt and really care about it. We share this passion in common; I love dirt. Rather than talking about art in an aloof way, I spoke directly with people about ‘āina and came to better understand people’s deep connection with it. This depth has guided the diaries of dirt sketches I drew one by one with traces of dirt. It also informed the oral interviews I held with community members and residents to grasp ancient knowledge. Their resilient spirits have protected the dirt to make it possible to be self-sufficient throughout invasions, developers and outside forces. And the dirt remembers.
  1. The “Molokai process” is part of all dialogue that occurs. This process requires mutual respect, adjusting to the speed and pace of the island. These dialogues enrich and empower both sides so that mutual benefit is found together. Open dialogues have blossomed from one to the other because of caring relationships between ‘ohana members. To feel the depth of these relationships, I held workshops with high school teachers, the Molokai Arts Center community, high school students as well as other intimate groups on the island. These workshops are not secondary or additional parts of the exhibition—they are primary sources for determining the content, shape and color of the art works that will be on display.
  1. The power of stories. Memories are told through these mo’olelo, sharing the past with others. Both telling and listening keep them alive. The organic spiraling manner of telling has tremendous meaning in our worldview. Life is full of circles and gets more and more colorful the more we learn how to enjoy this process. While drawing on paper with dirt, Healoha and I have noticed people start with a spiral on Molokai. This piko is the beginning of all life which grows from the center. This spiral opens the interconnectivity weaving humans, animals, plants and all other things together.
  1. Seeing with spiritual eyes. This and many of these lessons have been taught to me by Malia Akutagawa, the spiritual guide for this artwork. Her kindness in sharing stories has made the opening of this window possible one shade at a time. One by one the louvers of this window have been opened while learning how to see through spiritual eyes. These eyes can be developed through artistic work, but they can be used far beyond the museum to see the world with an insightful view. With spiritual eyes the land is healing from suffering, inequity and difficulty. The ocean comes back to its richness in harmony with people. A future of self-determination where the land comes back to life is possible.

These are just a few lessons that have informed this artwork. There are so many more. Mahalo nui loa to Malia Akutagawa Esq., Uncle Walter Ritte, the Molokai Arts Center, Ric Ornellas, Matt Yamashita, Uncle Bobby Alcain, Sust‘āina-ble Molokai and all those who make the opening of this window possible. Together we can change the world one grain of dirt at a time.


*Opening April 26 at Honolulu Museum of Art is the exhibition Molokai Window, a series of two works on paper, a video by Matt Yamashita, a piko of resilience, quotes from key community members and a large window bearing dirt borrowed from Molokai. This post originally appeared on the museum blog site here: http://blog.honoluluacademy.org/places-found-by-memory-artist-james-jack-on-molokai-window/

“Triangulation” Exhibition, Workshop & Book


Tokyo — Goto — Ho Chi Minh City


Exhibition, Conference and Workshop

March 2018

Exhibition Room, University Hall 2F
Faculty of Music, Ueno Campus, Tokyo University of the Arts

Tokyo University of the Arts: Yoshitaka Mōri, Tomo Yamazaki, Sawako Ishii, Jeremy Woolsey, Tanja Sillman, Kazuya Yukimura, Yuka Ikawa and Chiho Oka
Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Arts: Huynh Thanh Trang, Truong Boi Ngoc and Nguyen Hoang Yen

Guest Artist
James Jack(Yale-NUS College)

The title for this project ‘Triangulation” is derived from a cartographic technique. The determination of the location of one point is enabled by forming a triangle to it from two other known points. This technique is often used to identify the position of a boat for navigation. We apply this concept to think beyond the fixed relations between two places such as Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh or Japan and Vietnam, but also the ongoing processes of making relationship between any two cities or any two nations.

The point for our triangulation is Goto Island in Nagasaki Prefecture. These multiple points leads to the exploration of long-term, complicated and flexible relationships that cannot be reduced to direct one to one between two nations, two cities and even two universities. This includes consideration not only with human relationships, but also with networks of animals like the hachikuma bird and fishes and plants: it also asks us to rethink about environmental issues in the history. We discuss different layers of exchanges through our research and artworks on the theme of triangulation.

Organized by:
Graduate School of Global Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts

More imformation


Global Arts Research 2017-2018


東京芸術大学 上野キャンパス 音楽学部 大学会館2階 展示室

ホーチミン市美術大学:ウィン・タン・チャンHuynh Thanh Trang、チュン・ボイ・ノックTruong Boi Ngoc、グエン・ホアン・イェンNguyen Hoang Yen

ゲスト・アーティスト:ジェームズ・ジャック James Jack(Yale-NUS College)


More imformation

“Sea-centric SEA” Artist lecture


Sea-centric SEA

This talk starts with the sea. In contrast to land-centric histories of nation-states that dominate discussion of socio-political sphere today, this artist talk will open perspectives from the Ocean. What views are made possible from the perspective of the sea made visible in socially engaged art works? The life of the sea seen through human interactions illuminates maritime networks between diverse cultures. This talk will reconsider how Asia Pacific shifts if we put social and ecological relationships in the center. Artistic work as a form of social remembering can empower resilient narratives amidst colonial remnants in the region. Artworks by Jack work toward revitalizing connections within and in between communities through creative storytelling.




*SEA=Socially Engaged Art and Southeast Asian Art



Artistic Engagement with Maritime Pathways

Friday, March 2, 2018
3:00 – 4:30 pm

Tokioka Room (Moore Hall 319)

Room change: Center for Korean Studies’ auditorium




University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa iLab
22 February 2018
03:00 PM – 05:00 PM

Part One: Artist Projects
James JACK

Part Two: Discussion


Toyomi Hoshina, Professor of Art, Tokyo University of the Arts
Hoshina is known for his large-scale, site-specific installations that explore the duality of nature and artifice. He often utilizes natural materials such as wood, handmade paper and Sumi-ink to create geometric architectural structures that have been featured at the 12th Paris Biennale, Chengdu Biennale, Echigo-Tsumari Triennale and organizer of Ueno Town Art Museum in Tokyo. This talk will focus on nuclear radiation flowing in cycles of rainwater including ecological changes in water invisible to humans, but felt in the body directly through interrelation between parts.

James Jack, Assistant Professor of Art, Yale-NUS College, Singapore
Jack is known for his socially-engaged art practice in the Asia Pacific Region. His work focuses on the importance of conversation and interview as a process of remembering and recovering island histories. These become the foundation for his subtle installations of material objects, films, sound, and more that have been featured at the Setouchi Triennale, Busan Biennale Sea Art Festival, Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Satoshi Koyama Gallery in Tokyo. This talk will focus on the Pacific as a rich source for stories of interaction with spirits including social and ecological changes occurring in the sea made visible through botanical and historical perspectives in art.

Funding provided by Japan Foundation & Nomura Foundation.
and supported by Waikiki Parc Hotel – Hospitality Sponsor for the Arts at UH Mānoa

All events are free and open to the public.

Parking fees may apply.

Image (top):
Masayuki Tamae
Community Monitoring of Coral Bleaching in Okinawa, 2017


Exhibition de(Tour) at CCA Singapore

Exhibition de(Tour) by artist James Jack

CCA Singapore

9 February 2018
07:30 PM – 09:00 PM

James Jack. Sea Birth: part two 2017 Installation view Ichihanari Art Project, Okinawa


Exploring the ways in which artistic practices reflect on social and ecological phenomena, James Jack will reference one of his curatorial projects, Play with Nature, Played by Nature (2013), an exhibition and series of conversations that looked at creative practices as a way to reinvigorate our consciousness of cycles occurring in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, Japan. Jack will also share his artistic research process of Sea Birth (2017), a project that takes as a starting point the spirits in the sea off the Okinawa coast for a re-imagination of the links between fragments from a turbulent past.


For more information:

Block 43 Malan Road, Singapore 109443